Hybrid events are now an extremely important part of the business tourism landscape — but where to start? We look at the big picture of this new model and walk you through the advantages and challenges.
As an association conference planner, you’re skilled at organising large-scale events with complex logistics and a range of face-to-face activities. In the post-pandemic world however, with travel still restricted, the needs of associations have changed dramatically.
How can you gather thousands of delegates from all around the world together in one space to share ideas, learn from world-leading experts and network with peers, all while keeping them safe? Hybrid events and digital conferences are quickly becoming the answer and a fixture within the global MICE sector; getting up to speed with exactly what they entail, how they work and what you need to organise one is essential.
The ICC Belfast Hybrid Studio
What are hybrid events and digital conferences?
Hybrid events rely on a combination of socially distanced in-person activities and an online component delivered through a digital platform. Depending on where they are in the world, delegates can either attend physically or remotely; high level production and cutting-edge technology means that every single attendee feels fully immersed in the conference experience.
While not entirely a new concept, the hybrid event model has surged in popularity due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the 2020 conference calendar was pushed online due to health and safety issues and travel restrictions; with the same issues continuing on into 2021, the hybrid event promises increased security and reassurance for both clients and delegates alike.
It’s not just a case of live streaming your conference programme: a higher demand for digital conferences has resulted in the release of new innovative technologies and a focus on delivering increasingly high-quality experiences — with virtual meeting spaces, digital sponsorship opportunities and branded event footage all becoming part of the available packages.
What are the advantages of the hybrid event model?
As an experienced conference organiser, your number one concern is the health, safety and wellbeing of delegates. As virus-imposed restrictions begin to ease around the world, small business tourism-related gatherings will become possible but the logistics of running in-person MICE activities remain complicated.
By hosting a hybrid event, associations and large companies can accommodate their entire target audience with health, safety and flexibility moved to the forefront. A small number of people can be welcomed in person at one central location, or numerous smaller conference hubs in various locations can be employed — either way, the majority of conference delegates will register, listen, ask questions, network and socialise, all from the safety of their own homes.
Hosting a hybrid event or digital conference can be a cost-effective solution for many associations, with savings on the cost of transport, accommodation and entertainment. The eco-friendly benefits of such an event are also obvious, with the negative impact on the environment greatly reduced by limiting international travel. The collection of data is also made easy through the use of a hybrid event, with information gathered effortlessly through online registration and interactions.
Convention Centre Dublin
What are the challenges?
To be a success, a hybrid event must be seamless from start to finish — and much of that depends on the power of technology and connectivity. A variety of challenges can face conference organisers, including inconsistent local internet speeds, differing time zones and limited engagement or interaction.
An expert AV company can help you realise your virtual ambitions; sourcing the right one for your needs and then cementing that relationship from the start is crucial. As an evolving model, there will be a lack of understanding on the part of some clients, delegates and stakeholders, so clarity of vision and articulate communicate will be needed to bring all parties on a journey of discovery. Ample lead times will be necessary to ensure that all elements are carefully considered and that the execution of your digital event is flawless and enjoyable.
Choosing a venue
Selecting the right venue for your hybrid event is of paramount importance, as you’ll require high-quality audiovisual facilities, excellent internet connectivity and a skilled in-house IT team. World-class venues like the RDS
, Convention Centre Dublin
, Croke Park
and the Aviva Stadium
all have the capacity to host impressive hybrid events, with virtual broadcast studios, online event platforms, event streaming available for use. In addition, the ICC Belfast
has state-of-the-art technical equipment on offer, from the latest line-array speaker system to ensure speeches are delivered with perfect clarity, to high-powered HD projection allowing visuals to jump off the screen.
Using these facilities, delegates can log on from their home or office and still experience all that a traditional conference or event has to offer, while you’ll benefit from the technical expertise of the venues’ event management teams.
The best of both worlds?
A hybrid event or digital conference can offer a "best of both worlds" scenario for many associations. Even when large numbers are once again able to travel around the world to attend conferences, including a virtual element within the programme will allow an extra contingent to participate remotely.
The hybrid model is here to stay; to find out more about skilled partners that can help you organise a successful digital conference here in Ireland, contact Meet in Ireland
Part 2 of our series on staging a hybrid event explores the technical requirements you'll need to make your event a success.